Women Running Solo In The Mountains

Julie Moore, 21st January 2017

Running on the trails is a fun and invigorating way to work out. Just ask any female trail runner and she’ll likely enthuse about the many virtues of trail running: from the sense of freedom it gives to exploring your limits and growing stronger or the inspiring scenery you’ll encounter to the friends she’s met through trail running – the list goes on.

female runner passing signpost

Even so, many women have reservations about running solo on trails, whether in the Pyrenean mountains or trails close to their home: “Will I get lost? Is it safe? What if I fall? Is there any danger from wildlife?”

These fears are all valid, but overcoming them can be a great source of empowerment and in doing so, you’ll be rewarded with exhilarating scenery that can only be seen on foot.

Compared to many of our daily activities, such as driving a car, trail running is a fairly low risk activity. Of course, it’s not without any risk – planning is key for any trail run, wherever you are in the world. By taking some preliminary precautions, you can banish all your doubts and fears.

1. Know your route

Before setting off, study a map of your route so that you have an idea of the direction you should be taking and the profile. Carry a map with you at all times; not only does a map contain a wealth of information so that you can follow your progress along the trail, it could be a life saver if the weather turns and you have to abandon your route and get back to civilisation via the quickest route.

If you really can’t read a map, take a class in map and compass navigation. It’s a skill that everyone should have - it could save your life in the future.

female runner passing signpost

2. Tell someone where you’re going

Assuming that you’ve planned your route, let someone know where you’re heading together with an estimated return time. If you do get into any difficulties, at least someone will know where to come looking. Carry a mobile phone by all means, but reception in the mountains is patchy and cannot be relied upon.

wild mountainscape

3. Be aware of your surroundings

Leave your headphones behind so that you can pay attention to the trail at all times, even when you get tired. Get to know what dangers you may face whether wildlife or human, so you know what to keep an eye out for. Here in the Pyrenees, I’ve encountered enough hunters from late autumn to early spring to know to wear bright coloured clothing during weekend runs – the last thing I want is to be mistaken for a fleeing doe!

runner on woodland trail

4. Take plenty of food and water

There aren’t many cafes in the high mountains so it’s up to you to carry the food and water that you need for the duration of your run. Carry some extra fuel and water or purification tablets as an emergency back-up, just in case you get lost or become stranded.

runner drinking water

5. Be prepared for the weather

It may be perfect conditions when you set out, but the weather can quickly change in the mountains - mountain environments need to be respected. An extra layer will help keep you warm when running through fickle mountain weather. I’ve experienced this first hand; it really was a wake-up call. After a clear start, the clouds started to roll in on the mountainside with visibility less than 5 metres. Although I ‘thought’ I knew the trail, with so many animal tracks, navigation became difficult and my pace dropped considerably. Having a map and compass enabled me to abort my run and get swiftly and safely off the mountain whilst the extra layer and gloves provided the warmth I needed.

runner in bad weather

Trail running doesn’t have to be scary or dangerous. By taking some safety precautions, you can relax and have fun on those trails. After all, the trails are there for all to enjoy, so make sure you don’t miss out.